Not only have Marama Fox and the rest of the Maori Party made absolutely the wrong call in refusing to back Helen Clark’s bid for the top job at the United Nations. The party’s co-leader has also been incredibly stupid.
Fox was so consumed with climbing onto her high horse of indigenous rights this week that she completely forgot what she had said barely three months ago about Clark’s suitability for the post.
To say that is to be generous to Fox. If she did remember what she told Radio Waatea back in April, then she has displayed a cynicism which makes her unable to preach principle for a very long time.
When asked backed then about the former Labour leader’s credentials for becoming the UN’s new secretary-general, Fox said that as head of the UN’s Development Programme for the past seven years, Clark had been advocating for the rights of indigenous people, women, equity and fairness.
Having been removed from the “burden” of prime ministership and Labour Party policy, Clark had been able to advocate for “the human rights of human existence”.
Fox added that given Clark’s experience on the world stage, she would probably respond differently now to a foreshore and seabed type “situation” – the issue which sparked the establishment of the Maori Party.
“So I have seen a change in the way she has conducted herself in the UN and I support her as someone who would be credible in the top job.”
That was the exact opposite of what Fox said earlier this week.
She instead attacked Clark for her record on indigenous rights, demanded an apology and – along with the party’s other co-leader Te Ururoa – said she could not back Clark.
Fox is just the kind of feisty MP that the Maori Party so desperately needs to raise its sagging profile. But she is a first term MP. She has to learn how to walk before she can run. Being provocative is fine. For the sake of your credibility, however, you must still be consistent in what you say. And you have to give yourself some room for flexibility in case you have to change your mind at some point in time.
Fox raised eyebrows a couple of months ago when she stormed off the set of TV3’s The Nation during a debate with Imperial Tobacco spokesman Dr Axel Gietz, during which she accused him of promoting an industry which made billions of dollars every year profiting off misery and death.
Her sudden exit looked contrived and pre-planned, however.
Fox’s gaffe only compounded the misjudgement already displayed this week by the two Maori Party MPs. In refusing to come in behind Clark, they have been petty and vindictive.
They did get a mild ticking-off from Tariana Turia, the party’s former co-leader, who will be worried by the failure of the party’s leadership to see the bigger picture.
A country of New Zealand’s size requires all hands to the pumps when someone is seeking a top international post, especially when that person already faces huge obstacles in securing the position, despite being the best candidate by a country mile.
The one saving grace is that the UN Security Council will have far bigger fish to fry than the Maori Party’s rotting kai moans when its members determine later in the year who will be in charge of the flawed, but very necessary institution for the next five years at least.